How to Get Your Christmas Tree to Last Through Christmas

Father and daughter shopping for Christmas tree
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If you're getting a real Christmas tree this year, understanding trees and what they need can be the difference between one that lasts and a big brown mess of dried needles on lifeless limbs.

The first step is picking the right tree. The type of tree you choose can make it a lot more likely that you'll have a nice green tree in your home from now through Christmas.

Noble Fir, Fraser Fir or Scotch Pine?

The longest-lasting tree is the Noble fir, according to Ji Crowley, owner and president of Gotham Florist in New York City and a florist on the boutique floral site BloomNation.com.

"If you need the tree to last a long time, go with the Noble fir," Crowley said. "But my favorite is the Fraser fir. It has, hands down, the best Christmas tree scent. The needles on this tree are nice and plump so they don't prick you, and the branches are angled slightly up so the ornaments hang nicely and don't droop from the weight."

Scotch pine, perhaps the most common Christmas tree, has about four weeks of life in it once it's cut down and is known for good needle retention.

If you're able to go to a farm where you (or someone who works there) can cut the tree fresh, that's ideal. But if that's not possible, you'll need to ask some questions and do a few simple tests to ensure you're getting the freshest tree you can.

What to Do, Ask While Shopping

There can be an enormous difference from one tree-seller to another and from one tree to the next. Be prepared to go to another seller if you can't find a relatively recently cut tree.

"Remember that trees sold on retail lots in urban areas may have come from out of state and may have been exposed to drying winds in transit," according to the University of Illinois Extension program. "They may have been cut weeks earlier."

So, ask when the trees were cut and delivered.

Then give the tree a good look. It can have some brown needles, but you don't want to see too many. Next step is the touch test.

"Run a branch through your enclosed hand -- the needles should not come off easily," according to the National Christmas Tree Association. "Bend the outer branches -- they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry."

Care at Home

If the tree is pre-cut, be sure it gets a fresh cut before you put it in place. You'll need to get it in water within four hours, Crowley said. If there's dry sap on the bottom, scrape it off before you put it place.

At home, be sure to give the tree its best chance to stay hydrated. That means keeping it as far from heaters and the fireplace as you can, Crowley said, and ideally someplace cool.

That tree is going to be thirsty, and you want to satisfy that thirst. On day one, you'll want to give it a half gallon to a gallon of water, she said. And after that, at least a quart per day to have the best shot at keeping the tree fresh through the holidays.
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